Weekly Review — May 11, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Caught in the Web, 1860]

Caught in the Web, 1860.

One trillion virtual dollars vanished from the U.S. stock market in fifteen minutes, as a mysterious surge of sales triggered a chain reaction in the high-speed automatic-trading computers that account for more than half of all market activity. It was rumored that a trader had accidentally typed “b” for billion rather than “m” for million, that someone somewhere was gaming the system, and that the “flash crash” was a reaction to unrest in Greece, where 100,000 people protested spending cuts by the socialist government and three bank workers were killed by rioters. “Those riots,” said David Walker of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, testifying before a House finance subcommittee, “could happen in the United States in less than ten years.”NYTThe WeekBusinessweekCNNCNBCDallas NewsAP via GooglePoliticoIn the Democratic push for finance reform, democratic-socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont compromised on a proposal for public audits of the Federal Reserve, and Representative Ron Paul (R., Tex.) said that Sanders had “sold out.” BusinessweekThe Labor Department announced that 290,000 jobs were created in April, and unemployment rose 0.2 percent, to 9.9 percent, with 17.1 percent of the labor force underutilized.WSJWaPoOpera workers in Italy launched wildcat strikes to protest pay cuts, and public-health authorities in Iowa reported eight cases of mumps, possibly spread at a “root-beer kegger” in Sioux Center. AP via Boston GlobeDes Moines Register

President Barack Obama nominated solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. The confirmation of Kagan, a self-described “famously excellent teacher” with an elite liberal pedigree, a scanty scholarly record, and no judicial experience, would make the Court one-third Jewish as well as one-third female. NYTSalonNYTTwo-time Alaska governor and former U.S. secretary of the interior Wally Hickel died. Severely dyslexic, largely self-educated, and a self-made millionaire, Hickel often attributed his wisdom to a “little guy” inside of him. “He’s my buddy,” he said. “He never gets mad. Sometimes he hides. But then he comes out.”NYTHuffington PostAnchorage Daily NewsSenators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Scott Brown of Massachusetts proposed a bill to allow the State Department to strip Americans of their citizenship if there is evidence that they support terrorism. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the measure, and House speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed with its “spirit.” SenateNYTSomali pirates in the Gulf of Aden captured a Russian tanker carrying $52 million worth of oil; they were quickly dislodged by Russian troops, disarmed, and set free. Asked why the pirates were let go, a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said, “Why should we feed some pirates?” Guardian NYT

An estimated 210,000 gallons of crude oil were gushing daily into the Gulf of Mexico from a leaking BP oil well. A plan to trap the oil in a massive dome failed. Engineers were considering plugging the leak with trash, and wealthy Manhattanites were donating their hair to mop up the spill. “Would it be possible,” asked Kenny Wilder of Navarre, Florida, at an emergency meeting with BP representatives, “to just go out there and bomb the hell out of it?” AP via BusinessweekNew YorkCNNScientists feared for the oysters of Florida’s Apalachicola Bay. “If you’re an oyster,” explained a marine biologist, “you don’t put on your sneakers and leave.”Miami HeraldFarmers in Mixquiahuala, Mexico, who use runoff from Mexico City sewers to irrigate their crops, protested plans to build a sewage-treatment plant.NYTScientists analyzing Neanderthal DNA concluded that Eurasian Homo sapiens may have mated a little bit with Neanderthals, but African Homo sapiens did not. NYTScienceThe birth-control pill turned 50, Americans celebrated Mother’s Day, and NATO forces marched in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.APBoston GlobeLATCSMTax collectors in rural San Diego County, California, threatened to auction off the property of disabled Marine, Thoreauvian, and Rastafarian Joseph Diliberti, who has refused to pay a bill sent by the local fire department, for clearing allegedly flammable bushes from his property. “A Rasta-man,” said Diliberti, “doesn’t worry about these things.” LAT

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In February 1947, Harper’s Magazine published Henry L. Stimson’s “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” As secretary of war, Stimson had served as the chief military adviser to President Truman, and recommended the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The terms of his unrepentant apologia, an excerpt of which appears on page 35, are now familiar to us: the risk of a dud made a demonstration too risky; the human cost of a land invasion would be too high; nothing short of the bomb’s awesome lethality would compel Japan to surrender. The bomb was the only option. Seventy years later, we find his reasoning unconvincing. Entirely aside from the destruction of the blasts themselves, the decision thrust the world irrevocably into a high-stakes arms race — in which, as Stimson took care to warn, the technology would proliferate, evolve, and quite possibly lead to the end of modern civilization. The first half of that forecast has long since come to pass, and the second feels as plausible as ever. Increasingly, the atmosphere seems to reflect the anxious days of the Cold War, albeit with more juvenile insults and more colorful threats. Terms once consigned to the history books — “madman theory,” “brinkmanship” — have returned to the news cycle with frightening regularity. In the pages that follow, seven writers and experts survey the current nuclear landscape. Our hope is to call attention to the bomb’s ever-present menace and point our way toward a world in which it finally ceases to exist.

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The Ambassador Bridge arcs over the Detroit River, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the southernmost city in Canada. Driving in from the Canadian side, where I grew up, is like viewing a panorama of the Motor City’s rise and fall, visible on either side of the bridge’s turquoise steel stanchions. On the right are the tubular glass towers of the Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, and Michigan Central Station, the rail terminal that closed in 1988. On the left is a rusted industrial corridor — fuel tanks, docks, abandoned warehouses. I have taken this route all my life, but one morning this spring, I crossed for the first time in a truck.

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But the exercise of labor is the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life. . . . He works in order to live. He does not even reckon labor as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life.

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To look at him, Sweet Macho was a beautiful horse, lean and strong with muscles that twitched beneath his shining black coat. A former racehorse, he carried himself with ceremony, prancing the field behind our house as though it were the winner’s circle. When he approached us that day at the edge of the yard, his eyes shone with what might’ve looked like intelligence but was actually a form of insanity. Not that there was any telling our mother’s boyfriend this — he fancied himself a cowboy.

“Horse 1,” by Nine Francois. Courtesy the artist and AgavePrint, Austin, Texas
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What We Think About When We Think About Soccer, by Simon Critchley. Penguin Books. 224 pages. $20.

Begin, as Wallace Stevens didn’t quite say, with the idea of it. I so like the idea of Simon Critchley, whose books offer philosophical takes on a variety of subjects: Stevens, David Bowie, suicide, humor, and now football — or soccer, as the US edition has it. (As a matter of principle I shall refer to this sport throughout as football.) “All of us are mysteriously affected by our names,” decides one of Milan Kundera’s characters in Immortality, and I like Critchley because his name would seem to have put him at a vocational disadvantage compared with Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, or even, in the Anglophone world, A. J. Ayer or Richard Rorty. (How different philosophy might look today if someone called Nobby Stiles had been appointed as the Wykeham Professor of Logic.)

Tostão, No. 9, and Pelé, No. 10, celebrate Carlos Alberto’s final goal for Brazil in the World Cup final against Italy on June 21, 1970, Mexico City © Heidtmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Factor by which single Americans who use emoji are more likely than other single Americans to be sexually active:

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